Monash-led clinical trial shows promise for prostate cancer patients



A world-first clinical trial aimed at improving immunotherapy responses in patients with advanced prostate cancer has started at the Monash HealthTranslation Precinct.

A world-first clinical trial aimed at improving immunotherapy responses in patients with advanced prostate cancer has started at the Monash HealthTranslation Precinct.

The trial, which has already seen positive results, is being led by Monash Health oncologist Associate Professor Arun Azad from the Prostate Cancer Therapeutics laboratory, School of Clinical Sciences at Monash Health (SCS).  

“The first patient on trial has responded to therapy after just six weeks, which is pretty remarkable,” Associate Professor Azad said.

The investigator-initiated trial is known as ICE-PAC (Immune checkpoint inhibition + stereotactic radiation in advanced prostate cancer), and is supported with funding from Merck Serono, the manufacturer of Avelumab—the drug being used in the trial.

Associate Professor Azad said immunotherapy has transformed the management of many malignancies—although not prostate cancer (yet)—by re-activating anti-tumour immune responses against cancer cells.

“However, these drugs do not work in all patients and in particular in advanced prostate cancer, seem to have limited activity at best,” Associate Professor Azad said.

“One way to boost their efficacy might be pre-treating with high-dose, precision radiotherapy (also known as stereotactic radiation) to metastatic disease.”

“This stereotactic radiation causes death of cancer cells, which releases tumour antigens (proteins) that stimulate immunity and can enhance the effect of immunotherapy drugs such as Avelumab.”  ​

​Associate Professor Azad said the patients being recruited to this study are heavily pre-treated having progressed on standard chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.

“They have limited treatment options and sadly in some cases limited prognosis. So we badly need effective new treatment options for them,” Associate Professor Azad said.

Collaborators on the study include Associate Professor Shankar Siva and Dr Ben Tran from Peter MacCullum Cancer Centre and Dr Carmel Pezaro, Eastern Health.

The researcher team will recruit a total of 25 patients. Three patients are on the trial now with another two about to commence. ​